Finally, data analysts and orthopedic surgeons have gotten together to conduct a study of cervical injury across the United States, with a particular focus on sports-related injuries. The findings of the study were presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Guess what? Football is bad for your neck! No surprise there. In sporting related neck injuries, the study found that football leads as the most common cause of neck sprains in men.
But unexpectedly, the study revealed that the most common cause for cervical fractures in men is cycling injuries. The study’s lead author J. Mason DePasse, MD, orthopedic trauma surgery fellow at Brown University, stated that “the biggest takeaway was that cycling is the number one cause of neck fractures, which suggests we may need to investigate this in terms of safety.”
For women, weightlifting and aerobic exercise were the leading causes of cervical sprains, along with trampoline and cheerleading. Cervical fractures for women occurred primarily during horseback riding, followed by cycling and time in the pool diving or swimming.
The study was conducted using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database. The database is managed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and collects information on emergency room patients from 100 U.S. hospitals. 27,546 patients who sustained a neck injury during a sporting activity were identified in the database by using data analytics to sift through 50,000 specific cases.
“Cervical spine injury is a substantial cause of morbidity and mortality, and, as far as injuries go, one of the more devastating injuries that we as orthopaedic surgeons can treat,” said lead study author J. Mason DePasse, MD, orthopaedic trauma surgery fellow at Brown University.
From 2000 to 2015, the study found that neck sprains increased 66% during weightlifting and aerobic exercise. The very things we’re doing to keep us strong and healthy turn out to be a major cause of pain and debilitation. Take those injuries into work with you, and your woes will likely be compounded.
So, what can you do to reduce your chances of sustaining exercise-related neck injuries and pain?
- According to Harvard Health, maintaining core strength is key. “If your core muscles aren’t strong, your neck and shoulder muscles will be overworked,” according to Dana Kotler, instructor in physical medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Once you strengthen your core muscles, everything falls into line a little better. It has an effect similar to adding a pillow to support your back.” Also, we are now learning that muscles will remember incorrect firing patterns, which create movement dysfunction patterns. This dramatically increases risk for injury – even during exercise.
- Harvard Health also recommends creating awareness of and correcting your posture when performing any exercise to avoid neck pain and reduce your chance of injury. Checking your posture when performing particular tasks at both home and work can help, too. To be redundant, posture patterns are movement patterns too. It is actually more important to focus on increasing your posture awareness to correct movement patterns that improve your flexibility and create better muscle firing patterns than your exercising. If you are exercising incorrectly, you are inadvertently increasing your risk for soft tissue injuries, including joints. Health care professionals trained in this area are your target contacts to help you to correct posture and movement pattern dysfunctions.
- A study conducted by Denmark’s National Research Centre for the Working Environment found that using three particular strength-building exercises using weights—shoulder shrugs, upright rows and reverse flies—can reduce neck pain by 80% in less than three months, according to Prevention. The other side of the coin is that too many of these exercises that isolate muscles without looking at the whole leads to shoulder movement pattern dysfunction. Some of the problems with “exercises” is that we are looking at parts instead of the whole system: the body.
- Lastly, each of us is aging. Whenever you engage in a sporting activity, keep in mind that your body is changing and a different approach to exercise may be required over time. But, please! Don’t stop exercising! Your cells are aging, too, and a recent study in Preventative Medicine concluded that high levels of physical activity help curb and even reverse cellular aging as well as sarcopenia, or muscle loss.